The Lurgy Has Struck

I’m very bad at physical illness.  I’m like Frasier when he has a cold, very sorry for myself, and demanding food and drink at all hours.


It’s an odd thing really; I’m pretty good at shouldering mental and emotional stuff; I just scream and moan, then get out of bed and on with the day.  But give me a heavy head cold and I’m confined to barracks moaning and groaning.

Fortunately I’m not often ill.  But today I am; my head aches, my limbs ache, my nose is producing enough snot to float a battleship and I am tired, tired, tired.  Having got OH to make me breakfast I shall probably sleep a little more.  Plus I’m getting through the paracetamol at a rate of knots.  I’ve been taking echinacea and lime and ginger tea with turmeric.

So I’ve mostly been dozing in bed, but I did eventually get up and watch back-to-back episodes of ‘Inside No 9’, ‘Dad’s Army’ and ‘Frasier.’  Waiting for Holby to come on now.

See you on the other side…

Kirk out

PS It’s odd that I should post a link to ‘Frasier’ when the news broke of his on-screen father dying.  Here is Kelsey Grammer’s tribute:

Comfrey Cuttings? Cut!

Image result for comfrey open source images

I just discovered this post lurking in the drafts folder: I wrote it a week ago and thought I’d published it, but not so.

I’ve got a bit carried away with gardening this week, and while the two lavender cuttings were settling into their pot, I looked up methods of propagating comfrey.  Mark used to joke about this herb, ‘it doesn’t come free, you know,’ but actually – it does.  Not only that, if it’s in a place where you don’t want it, it’s very hard to get rid of.  But I wanted to take some from between the cracks in the front garden and transport it to the back – to which end, I did some research – and, surprise, surprise, you can’t take cuttings.  I more or less knew this, but whereas the recommended method is to divide the plants and transplant one half, the only comfrey plants available to me have wedged themselves so tightly between paving-slabs that it is impossible to get any garden implement in there.

But all was not lost.  As I wrote ‘comfrey cuttings’ on my notepad, a small twinge occurred in my brain.  It reminded me of something.  Some poking around revealed this to be an abortive follow-up to Dad’s Army called Parsley Sidings.

And all of this set me thinking about sequels to sitcoms.  Ones which failed include Joey, the unsuccessful follow-up to Friends; Going Straight, the much less exciting spin-off from Porridge, and one which only I seem to remember, Constant Hot Water, which featured Pat Phoenix (Elsie Tanner of Coronation St) as a B&B landlady.  I didn’t know, however, that there had been a sequel to M*A*S*H called Aftermash, but so it was.

However not all spin-offs are doomed to oblivion.  Some do even better than their progenitors.  Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? is widely considered to be better than the original, and Frasier is far superior to Cheers.

None of which gets me any further with the comfrey.  I did attempt to dig up a couple of roots, but they both perished.

And this post has gone all squashed.  Maybe that’s what happens if they don’t see the light of day…

Kirk out



Instead of Cats

I’ve never really been a cat person; I grew up with dogs and appreciate their ability to learn words and obey commands.  A dog is a companion, whereas a cat is an occasional visitor.  But plants?  How can plants keep you company?

Well, ever since I started on the garden here, I’ve been talking to my plants.  I welcome them the moment they show their shoots, and say hello to them every morning.  I tell them how beautiful they are and how brilliantly they’re doing.  When my potatoes poke their dark-green leaves through the soil I say how lovely it is to see them; when tomatoes thrive and grow bushy I give them plenty of praise.

There are two reasons why I think this benefits them.  First is the obvious: that I am exhaling carbon dioxide in their vicinity so that they can breathe it in.  Second – and this is just my opinion – I think it gives me a closer connection to them, which results in me looking after them more effectively and noticing problems early.  Just as the more you talk to your dog the more likely you are to notice when they’re off-colour, so it is with plants.

But it doesn’t end there.  I have a graded system of reward and punishment.  I am mildly discouraging towards herb bennett, harshly critical towards dandelions, vitriolic with brambles and ivy, and openly hostile with the current bane of my life, horsetail.  Equisetum arvense, as it is Latinly known, is one of the most ferociously invasive weeds ever.  Its roots can go down as far as five feet (yes, five feet!) and are soil-coloured: failure to remove any part of a root, however small, will result in lots of little pony-tails springing up like a miniature forest.  Not only that, but instead of flowers these plants have spore-bearing tips which, if disturbed, will scatter tiny spores over a wide area like a giant horsetail sneeze.

I’ve read a lot about this, and the advice seems to be, don’t try to dig it out.  Pinch or cut off at soil level and keep at it 24/7.  If you do this for the next five years you might stand a chance of getting rid of it.  Alternatively you can use weed-killer but first you have to crush the plant as it has silica in the stem and so will not absorb it otherwise.

And yet in spite of all this I can’t help having a sneaking respect for horsetail.  It’s clearly a primeval plant – you can tell that just by looking – and in prehistoric times it was much larger.  In fact it was a full-grown tree.  It’s kind of interesting, if abhorrent, to see this tiny tree-like thing poking through the soil; and I can’t help respecting its persistence.  In addition it has various herbal uses,  such as treating urinary incontinence and some kinds of arthritis.

I’d better stop talking about this now otherwise OH will want us to grow the stuff deliberately…

Kirk out

Before You Know It – Nothing Happens

Sometimes I sit and stare at the screen, wishing for something sensational to happen so I can write about it.  And then I realise – sensational things are happening all around me.  As I look towards the windowsill I see my little sunflower seedlings, spindly but keen, growing about an inch a day (perhaps I can even see them growing if I stare for long enough) and leaning towards the light eagerly.  When speeded up they look like writhing snakes (or so I imagine, having seen speeded-up films of such things.)

To my right, on top of the radiator, comes momently a noise that mimics the ticking of the clock.  But when I look I realise it’s my wine, fermenting at a gratifying rate and releasing gases into the atmosphere with a ploip-ploip-ploip.  (Nettle wine, since you ask.)  And in front of me on the table is an old brown teapot whose lid I was never able to replace without it costing as much as a new pot, which now houses cuttings of forsythia like jagged rays of sun thrown into relief by green hedge-prunings.  All around me is life and colour: I don’t even need to turn to the mandala I’ve been colouring in to find it.

And when I turn on the radio I find newsreader Kathy Clugston (I always thought it was Cluxton) on the radio talking about anosmia.

I used to be able to smell as much as the next person (and sometimes to smell the next person) but since my anti-Proustness has come upon me and I have forgotten everything I can no longer smell at all.  Occasionally I get a whiff of something and I think oo! it’s coming back! but then before you know it – nothing happens.  Oddly, it doesn’t seem to stop me tasting food and drink, but every time I rub my fingers on a spear of rosemary or lavender, or take a gulp of sea air or a sip of Earl Grey tea – nothing happens again.

Smell is known to be connected to memory, and I still hope that as my memory returns and I am able to find my way from here to the shops without Google maps, so one day I will be able to smell again.  Transitively, that is…

Kirk out


Well – I’ve been whizzing about in my stats for this blog and trying to understand these little columns of blue and the maps that go with them.  I admit to being a bit obsessive about checking my stats, as I guess most bloggers are (those of us who don’t have millions of followers, that is).  In the last year or so, they have ‘improved’ them, and like most improvements, it’s a mixed blessing.  Instead of giving you just the total number of views in a nice blue bar-chart, they give you another column in dark blue.  This indicates the number of visitors to your shores.  So, it’s like counting, say, the number of birds who visit your garden and then being able to identify each individual bird and discovering you have a lot fewer than you thought because you’ve got the same birds coming back again and again.

Now, I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or not.  If I have, say, 100 views in a day but only 20 visitors, is that better than 100 different people coming and taking a quick look?  And what are these twenty visitors doing, leaving and coming back again an average of four times a day?

Whatever.  So long as the stats go up, I’m happy – although that does mean that when they go down I’m unhappy.  I just can’t seem to cure myself of the habit of looking at them.

Anyway, what I was really going to blog about was the news that broke yesterday about corruption in FIFA.  I couldn’t care less about football (incidentally, why do Americans say ‘I could care less’?  It makes no sense!!!) but my heart still sinks to my boots when I hear these stories.  Is everything up for sale?  Is everyone?

Maybe drugs were involved.  They were certainly involved in last night’s Drink and Think, although we got a bit stuck on currently illegal drugs and didn’t have much to say about legal highs as we don’t really know what they are.  We did touch on prescription drugs though and the good or harm that these do.

If you weren’t there, you missed it.  And a good pint of Holden’s mild, too.

Kirk out

What is the Matter?

I just don’t know about all these words.  I mean, what is going on here?  In my day, a monitor was a child in charge of the school milk. *  In my day, a hard drive was a long car journey; a mobile was a twirly ceiling-decoration, a text was a book to study and a keyboard was a musical instrument.  And a mouse was a small, cheese-eating rodent.  In my day things were what they said they were and you knew what was what.  In my day everything made sense.

Of course such ranting is as out of place as Canute trying to hold back the tides (except that we know that’s not what he was doing, see previous post:

Words change inexorably as the tide comes in and goes out; and as people on radio 4 are forever pointing out, words which were once horrifyingly rude are now part of everyday speech, and vice-versa.  I refer you to ‘Cor, blimey!’ which I was once told by a Sunday-school teacher never to say as it meant ‘God, blind me.’  She seemed to think God might decide you meant it and carry out the deed.  What absolute balderdash.

Now there’s another obsolete word.  I quite like balderdash, but it has upper-class overtones which means no-one uses it nowadays.  Everyone’s too busy developing their fake glottal stop so they can sound aw’ right and dahn wiv’ the people.

But I digress.  Actually they prefer peanut butter to cheese.  Mice, that is: we were infested with these pestiferous beasts in our old house.  Traps seemed to have no effect as they skipped nimbly round them; though occasionally we would find the splattered body of a tiny baby mouse caught in one.  This made me feel like an absolute arse.  Peppermint oil liberally sprinkled, would protect your vital areas from predation, but we used up an awful lot of the stuff and everything ended up tasting of mint.  In the end the mice all died out.  Perhaps they got demoralised by continually feeling they weren’t wanted.

I know the feeling…

Yesterday was terribly busy: today I shall just be finishing the painting, pottering about with poetry and taking a good long bath.

Kirk out

PS a bonus point to anyone who can tell me why I put that title to today’s post

*in my day there was school milk!

Dead Stingers

I am typing this in an invisible box – by which I didn’t mean that I am sitting in some Tardis-like structure with an invisibility booster, but that the box in which the text is appearing is invisible to me.  I look forward to seeing some interesting typos and weird spell checker guesses. Anyway, the winemaking season is upon us. And I have been out and about gathering nettles and stewing them with lemon juice and sugar. The nettles appear to be dead nettles rather than stingers, and I am wondering if that will make a difference to the recipe, however it doesn’t specifically say they have to be stinging nettles.  Stingers are useful though.  Did you know that they are beneficial for arthritis? You have to whip the affected joints.  Also, nettle tea is good for a diuretic if you have water-retention.

So much for that.  My favourite radio series – or one of them at least – is Dead Ringers.  It’s the radio equivalent of Spitting Image but without the puppets which would be kind of wasted on radio.  Perhaps this will enliven the 6.30 slot and hopefully replace the dreaded Pam Ayres.  Ugh!

I’m writing a poem about the dreaded Pam.  It begins:

I wish I’d looked after me verse

being comic’s a terrible curse

I haven’t got enough to even put one stanza together yet, but it’ll come.  And then I shall perform it in selected venues across the nation.

In other news, I am probably going to organise some poetry for Water Aid as part of Bede Island Festival, so look out for that.

The nettle wine is fermenting, albeit very slowly.  And I made some bread last night and forgot about it.  The oven switched itself off and so it just sat there for a couple of hours.  I finished baking it and it seems OK…

And that’s me.  Happy Easter.

Kirk out

Gather Ye Rosehips While Ye May…

There seems to be a bit of a seasonal thing going on in my mind here, what with summer and spring ideas parodying themselves for autumn in the last couple of posts: anyway, today I went out to gather the last of the blackberries (not for wine this time but just for eating) and I was diverted by a positive cornucopia of rose hips.  Rose hips have been hovering at the edge of my mind for a while now: they are everywhere at this time of year, and like a lot of hedgerow produce, under-used and undervalued.  People tend to think that all you can do with them is make rose hip syrup, but this is not true.  Incidentally, every time I think of rose hip syrup I hear Hilda’s voice in my mind.  I mean of course the Hilda of ‘Howard and Hilda’: she of the hand-knitted twin sweaters and camomile tea.  If you still don’t know who I’m on about here’s a clip:

Howard and Hilda appear about 4 minutes in, in their typical matching sweaters.  For my money, EDC, though not as much fun, is more thoughtful and better written than ‘The Good Life.’  I became obsessed with it at one point, which I guess is appropriate…

Anyway… like I said, I can never think of rose hip syrup without hearing Hilda’s voice offering Martin some.  I picked a pound or so this afternoon and they are beautiful.

Kirk out

Summer is y-bugger’d off…

Well, that’s pretty much it from summer this year, folks, so turn on your central heating, get out your winter duvet and head off in search of some mists and mellow fruitfulness. There are still some blackberries around, the apples are coming and the hedgerows are groaning with fruit, at least where the hedge-trimmers haven’t been and shaved it all off. Yes, at this time of year you can see the lesser-spotted hedge-strimmer with its distinctive hard yellow cap and long wings as it plies the country roads keeping the hedgerows neat. Whenever I see one of these or come upon a weed-sprayer or lamppost bulb cleaner, I wonder what would happen if these jobs didn’t get done. Imagine: in less than a year country roads would become impassible and city streets would be a dark and dangerous mass of weeds. I don’t like seeing hedgerows cut back or pesticides sprayed on the pavement, and yet it’s hard to see how we could manage otherwise. I can’t even keep our patio free of weeds, for god’s sake. I’ve tried eco-solutions like boiled-egg water, but there are only so many eggs you can eat in a day.
Kirk out

Take Note of Your Elder…

It’s easy to ignore and disparage because it grows on waste ground or by canal-banks: few people would cultivate it deliberately but according to folklore elder is a special tree because it frames summer.  The blossom coming out marks the beginning of summer; the berries mark the end.  You can see very easily with elder how the berries map onto the blossom; how the sprays of off-white blooms (the colour of my Mum’s satin wedding-dress) which house quite unfeasible numbers of insects, give way in time to sprays of deliciously purple berries.  There’s nothing to match the colour of elderberries, and the wine they make is an equally beautiful dark colour.  I am drinking some of last year’s elderberries as we speak, and today I have picked enough to make another batch.  I’ve done well out of elder this year as several bottles of elderflower wine are waiting in the cupboard for me to broach them when the time is ripe.

So all of this means that summer must be over.  It certainly feels like it: there’s a chill in the garden and I’ve dug out a jumper to wear and tights to put under my socks.  But I don’t really mind: unlike some years it feels like we’ve actually had a summer this year.  We’ve had oodles of sun and not too much rain – it even seemed to threaten a drought at one point – so I don’t feel cheated.  Poor Daniel, on the other hand, hasn’t had a summer at all.  He’d barely broken up from college when infection struck, and it looks as if he’ll hardly have recovered by the time he needs to go back.

We have some apples ripening in the garden and I shall probably make wine out of them, too, come the autumn…

Kirk out